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3 Key Opportunities That Will Drive Shopify's Future Growth

Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) gave investors a belated Christmas gift on Wednesday. The e-commerce solutions provider reported holiday-quarter results that topped both analysts' consensus estimates and the high end of management's forecast, sending stock climbing nearly 8%.

Revenue grew to $505.2 million, up 47% year over year, driven by solid subscription revenue and booming merchant solutions revenue, which jumped 37% and 53%, respectively. The biggest shocker was a surprise profit, with net income of $771,000 and earnings per share of $0.01, far better than the $1.5 million and penny-per-share loss it produced in the prior-year quarter.

While much of the Q4 conference call was focused on its recent performance, Shopify's management spent a great deal of time laying out detailed plans for the company's future. Let's look at three areas that will be instrumental in driving future growth.

International expansion

While Shopify has operations in 175 countries around the world, investors might be surprised to know that the company still generates the majority of its sales in North America. The company has been hard at work expanding its international operations and providing localized tools for its global merchant base.

The platform is now available in 20 different languages, and Shopify Payments has grown to 15 countries. These efforts are beginning to pay off. CFO Amy Shapero said, "At the end of 2019 more merchants around the world had launched businesses on Shopify, with our international merchant base growing to 29% of our total merchant base, up from 24% the prior year." There's a whole big world out there, so this is likely just the beginning.

Shopify Fulfillment Network

Only a couple of quarters have passed since the company announced the Shopify Fulfillment Network, but all indications signal that the service has a bright future. During the company's Q2 conference call last year, Shapero said, "Thousands of merchants have expressed their desire to be a part of our early access program."

Since then, Shopify has taken a measured approach, adding just "dozens of merchants," but "maintaining our focus on performance quality over scale at its early stage," according to Shapero. She went on to point out that the busy holiday season acted as an important test period, achieving notable results. Shopify has had less than $1 million in fulfillment business since the program launched, but most participating merchants believe it's "a good value for their money, and order accuracy rates to date remain high."

2020 will be a year of "heavy investment" for Shopify, as the company continues its five-year plan to build out the Shopify Fulfillment Network at a cost of about $1 billion. As this program begins to scale, it could grow very quickly.

Image source: Getty Images.

6 River Systems

In furtherance of its fulfillment ambitions, Shopify acquired warehouse automation specialist 6 River Systems for $450 million, in a clear challenge to e-commerce leader (NASDAQ: AMZN). It's worth pointing out that two of the company's founders, Jerome Dubois and Rylan Hamilton, were former executives with Kiva Systems, the warehouse robotics company Amazon acquired in 2012. The technology was folded into Amazon Robotics and now provides the foundation for the company's warehouse and logistics operations.

Shapero said: "6 River Systems got off to a great start as part of Shopify. ... One of our partners deployed 6 River Systems technology and a [warehouse] node last month and is already benefiting from the added efficiency and support." Shopify also plans to open a small research and development center as a testing facility for new warehouse and fulfillment technology, where product teams will learn fulfillment firsthand.

Additionally, 6 River Systems will continue to expand its business independent of Shopify, providing the company with incremental revenue moving forward.

Investor takeaway

The biggest lesson here is that Shopify plans to continue to spend heavily on what Shapero calls "our most ambitious investments yet." The incremental cost of each of these initiatives will weigh on Shopify's adjusted profits for the foreseeable future, but they will lay the groundwork for additional revenue growth for years to come.

For investors with the appropriate long-term view, Shopify will likely turn out to be a once-in-a-generation growth stock. It's already got a good head start.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Amazon and Shopify. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Shopify. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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